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Would you like to see how instructors incorporate DH approaches into syllabi for courses taught across the humanistic disciplines?  Here you can search our exhaustive catalog of publicly available syllabi, pinpoint useful assignments, and identify tools and technologies to implement in your classroom.

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DH Theory & History



Structured Data

Public Archives

Course Summary:

This course introduces students to the concepts and tools needed to conduct digital research in English. During the semester, we’ll discuss how the broader field of the Digital humanities (DH) is defined, why humanists are using digital tools to do their research, how the new methods compare with older methods of humanities scholarship, and what are their strengths and weaknesses. This course gives you a chance to explore these new methods. We begin with a focus on the basic theoretical and technological issues involved in creating and analyzing digital texts, before moving on to a series of hands-on exercises in analyzing words and interrogating the results. By the end of the semester, students will understand the history, theory, and technology of digital textual analysis and produce a 15-page paper applying these new methods to material relevant to their own interests or analyzing examples of digital-based criticism. The field of DH values collaborative work far more than most other forms of scholarship in the humanities. This is because every DH project involves a collection of many discrete skills, far more than any one person can generally master. In this course, students will be encouraged to work collaboratively where possible. Part of the course will be devoted to discussing the nature of collaborative work and how it differs from “group work,” so that students learn how to work together in productive and positive relationships. Students should be comfortable using a computer and moving around in the file system. No knowledge of computer programming is needed. If you own a laptop, please bring it to class. If you do not, we’ll have laptops available for you to work through the in-class exercises.

Original Instructor: Peter Logan
Taught at Temple University in Spring 2016
discipline: English, Digital Humanities
conceptual difficulty: 3 technical difficulty: 4
Course Summary:

This class, Digital Literary Studies, examines four elements of the field.

• Close reading, “deformance,” and remix.
• Distant & Surface Reading: computers allow us to view the “surface” patterns of texts from the “distance” of large data sets rather than “close,” isolated passages.
• Archives and Databases: digital literary studies began with digital scholarly editions, which eventually became “unbound” from the book and were built as author- and theme-specific databases. We’ll study several, and contribute to some. We’ll learn how to “clean” data and do basic data visualizations.
• Cultural Studies: how search and metadata allow incredible facility in accessing information, but also can flatten lived human experience and render important details invisible. We’ll examine archives in the context of critical race theory and gender.

This course is both hands-on and theoretical. Student will write essays, build remix and collage, clean data, visualize data and aim to detect patterns. No prior knowledge of particular software is necessary. The course’s technical lessons adapt to the needs and prior experience of learners in the class. No pre-requisites are necessary.

Original Instructor: Kathy Berens
Taught at Portland State University in Fall 2016
discipline: English
conceptual difficulty: 3 technical difficulty: 3
Course Summary:

“With the migration of cultural materials into networked environments, questions regarding the production, availability, validity, and stewardship of these materials present new challenges and opportunities for humanists” (Burdick 4). It is these new challenges and opportunities that ENGL615 seeks to investigate. Co-taught by a Special Collections Librarian and a faculty member in the English department, this course provides broad training and professional development in curating, archiving, exhibiting, critiquing, and publishing materials across a range of media. The course interrogates the practices associated with the digital humanities as it also probes the intersections of library science and English studies. The course is meant to help graduate students in English broaden their career options, as they consider what is at stake in processes of information creation. This course takes the view that digital humanities is a set of skills and ways of thinking that can prepare you for a range of career opportunities within and beyond the university. The course covers the histories, methodologies, tools, and debates of digital humanities. While no technical background is required as a prerequisite for the course, this course is as technologically intensive as it is writing and reading intensive. That is, the use of technology will be a key aspect of your learning experience in this course. This is apt given that our focus will be on how writers and readers are increasingly reliant on digital tools, and the media we use to share and create information is changing. You can expect this course to equip you with practical tools for theorizing and participating in these processes of information creation, management, and design.

Original Instructor: Janelle Adsit, Original Instructor: Carly Marino
Taught at Humboldt State University in Fall 2017
discipline: English
conceptual difficulty: 3 technical difficulty: 4
Course Summary:

Popular media often portray “big data” as the exclusive province of information scientists, but data collection in the humanities can swiftly exceed the capacity of the human brain to analyze. Increasingly, humanists turn to digital tools to conduct quantitative research on literary texts, websites, tweets, images and sound recordings. How does one create or reuse a humanities data set? What tools are used to store, manipulate and process that data? How does one begin to analyze humanities research data and share findings in the form of visualizations? This course will explore some methodologies of quantitative analysis in the humanities using free and open source digital tools to yield insights into data that would otherwise be difficult to obtain. Through lectures, discussion, labs, and a digital final project, students will familiarize themselves with the tools of digital humanities scholarship and learn to form arguments on the basis of a few simple computational techniques.

Original Instructor: Francesca Gianetti
Taught at Rutgers University in Spring 2017
discipline: Digital Humanities
conceptual difficulty: 3 technical difficulty: 4
Course Summary:

This graduate seminar provides an introduction to the various theories and methods used by digital humanists to study culture. We’ll examine and critique recent computational approaches alongside the interpretative (hermeneutical) approaches found within cultural and literary studies. Throughout the term, we will give particular attention to subfields or areas of the digital humanities including critical code studies, game studies, machine learning, and text mining. Two short essays will enable you to interrogate oppositional positions within the field of digital cultural studies. Final projects will approach an object of American culture through digital methods or produce a reading of a digital object. Course readings include (among others): Alan Liu, N. Katherine Hayles, David M. Berry, Laura Mandell, Matthew L. Jockers, Lev Manovich, and Lisa Gitelman.

Original Instructor: James Dobson
Taught at Dartmouth College in Fall 2017
discipline: Master of Arts in Liberal Studies
conceptual difficulty: 4 technical difficulty: 4
Course Summary:

Key Questions:

• What happens to history as it gets digitized?
• That is, what does history look like, what happens to our materials, and the stories we tell or the questions we ask, as we abstract further and further away from ‘In Real Life’?
• What does ‘digital history’ really mean?

How will we explore these questions? You will choose a real world object/building/site here in Ottawa that you can access and:

• progressively abstract it away from the real world with a series of technologies from photogrammetry to augmented reality 
• all the while attending lectures to learn the context of what we’re doing and why,
• annotating the readings collaboratively on the open web
• as you keep open notebooks reflecting on this progression
• so that you can build a digital experience of your understanding of your results
• for a public reveal to be held on campus at the end of term.

Original Instructor: Shawn Graham
Taught at Carleton University in Spring 2018
discipline: History
conceptual difficulty: 4 technical difficulty: 4
Course Summary:

In the midst of the 2009 MLA Convention, Chronicle of Higher Education blogger William Pannapacker wrote, “Amid all the doom and gloom . . . one field seems to be alive and well: the digital humanities. More than that: Among all the contending subfields, the digital humanities seem like the first ‘next big thing’ in a long time, because the implications of digital technology affect every field.” More recently, William Germano, editor-in-chief for 20 years at Columbia University Press and now Dean of Humanities and Social Sciences at Cooper-Union, opined on Twitter: “The spectacular rise of ‘DH’ as the most powerful digraph in the non-STEM academy.”

With the recent visibility and notoriety has come concern, critique, and even outright contestation. This year’s MLA in Boston, for example, featured a packed roundtable on the “Dark Side of the Digital Humanities” as one of the many dozens of sessions devoted to DH. All of this at a moment when higher education itself faces massive, truly unprecedented changes in the face of the emerge of MOOCs, the seemingly inexorable rise of adjunctification and contingent labor, challenges to the future of publishing and scholarly communication, and outright questions about the value (bottom line and otherwise) of the humanities disciplines themselves. Is DH complicit, or is it the last, best hope for a vibrant scholarly future?

Though the use of computers and computational methods in humanities research can trace a history going back decades before the popular advent of the Web, the white hot rise of digital humanities–as digraph and discursive construct, as emerging field with real academic infrastructure, and as floating (or flickering) signifier is arguably a phenomenon not seen since the rise of High Theory a generation earlier.

This course is designed to introduce students to current topics and critical issues in this diverse, complex, and rapidly changing “field.” Rather than seeking to offer a comprehensive overview, the course will be organized around four topical units or modules, each extending over a period of roughly three weeks. These are as follows: How to Read a Million BooksReimagining the ArchiveDigital Aesthetics/Digital Play, and The Changing Academy. There will also be introductory and closing class meetings.

For each module, students will read key essays and current statements from leading figures in the field, explore relevant projects and tools, and participate in intensive discussions, both in class and online. Though the English department offers this course under its “Readings” rubric, it is in truth a course as much about Doings as it is Readings. Evaluation will therefore be based on weekly hands-on exercises, blogging and other forms of public writing, class participation, fieldwork, a presentation, and a final, reflective piece of writing [read the Requirements for further details].

No technical skills are required or assumed other than a willingness to learn. Students must, however, be willing to engage in online activities, including various forms of social media.

The department will also be organizing a separate Colloquium on Digital Humanities. It is complementary to this course, not redundant. Students who elect to participate in both will thus receive an especially robust preparation for work in the digital humanities.

Original Instructor: Matthew Kirschenbaum
Taught at University of Maryland in Spring 2013
discipline: English, Digital Humanities
conceptual difficulty: 3 technical difficulty: 4
Course Summary:

This course is an introduction to digital technology and culture that integrates interdisciplinary knowledge from literary studies, rhetoric and composition, art and design, business, and sociology to prepare students for the technical and cultural challenges of the 21st century. While this class is committed to introducing students to the history and culture of digital technology, it will also provide students with hands-on experiences with digital tools and delve into questions about what makes something digital and how we conceptualize our lives beyond the digital.

Original Instructor: Roger Whitson
Taught at Washington State University in Fall 2016
discipline: Digital Technologies and Culture
conceptual difficulty: 2 technical difficulty: 3
Course Summary:

This course has two complementary goals. The first is to introduce the history of technologies used to produce and circulate literature, from the parchment upon which Beowulf is written to the social media platforms exploited by netprov artists. This history provides a broad overview of the material conditions of possibility for the emergence of literary form and genre in the Anglophone tradition. The second goal is to examine how digital media are transforming scholarly publishing and communication by reflecting upon our own writing practices and their attendant technologies. By pursuing these two goals in tandem, this course places current trends, like digital humanities, within a much longer history of technological transformation and textual production. To keep things manageable, we are ditching strict chronology in favor of topic clusters. Each week, we’ll explore a new technical threshold or “interface” (in Alex Galloway’s sense of the term — we’ll get to that!) where matter meets meaning. It is my hope that this approach will enable us to engage in comparative, cross-historical analysis without undermining the historicist impulse that motivates the course. Because you really do need to experience many of these technologies for yourself, we’ll also be spending the last hour of most classes in Wilson Library, looking at everything from medieval parchment and hard disk drives to phonographic cylinders and Civil War scrapbooks. This is a unique opportunity, and we are extraordinarily lucky that the awesome staff at Wilson are letting us spend so much time with the materials.

Original Instructor: Whitney Trietten
discipline: English
conceptual difficulty: 2 technical difficulty: 4
Course Summary:

How do you measure a book? Can machines read? Do we read prose texts now the way people read them in 1919 or in 1819? We are swimming in textual data that could change our understanding of the written word - if you have the right tools and know how to access and work with it. What could you learn to do with all these different forms of textuality, with all this data? Can you find connections between your current interests in literature and the perspectives that technology opens up, or the goals of your career? This course is meant to give you practice with a variety of methods and real-world scenarios to help you participate in digital projects, using both prepared materials and your own. The course fulfills an elective in the Graduate Certificate in Digital Humanities (DH). We want to introduce you to literary computational methods as part of digital humanities, no matter what previous familiarity you might have. You will find any of your previous studies of literature highly relevant and useful for participating in this course. No one needs to be or to become a programmer. You will begin with your own interests and skills and help us encounter, together, specific methods of digital reading or ways to analyze and visualize the data of texts, including topic modeling and XML markup. There is room in our plans for us to consider how our methods could be applied for selected writers or literary works or genres that you want to write about or work on, or that you have encountered in other courses or personal reading. A focus on literary DH in this course doesn’t cover the entire spectrum of possibilities for digital research. We hope you will be interested to inquire further, and follow your paths with different tools and methods beyond this course.

Original Instructor: Alison Booth, Original Instructor: Brandon Walsh
Taught at University of Virginia in Spring 2019
discipline: English, Digital Humanities
conceptual difficulty: 4 technical difficulty: 3